As a companion to the previous post on the official WPP statement regarding Ajahn Brahm’s expulsion, the Forest Sangha website gives a statement from Wat Pah Nanachat. It was presumably authored with the abbot, Ajahn Kevali. He’s been a stalwart of the anti-bhikkhuni movement, who once told me that no Theravadin monk would ever support bhikkhuni ordination.
Here, however, the message begins with a compassionate acknowledgement of the suffering of women, their special contribution to maintaining Buddhism, acknowledgement of the historical injustice of discrimination in the Sangha, and the urgent need to provide a meaningful opportunity for women to practice that is founded on the authentic principles of the Dhamma-Vinaya. Oops, what was I thinking! That must have been a transmission from a parallel universe. Here’s the real message.
I’ll upload it as a pdf in case the link breaks.
There, I hope you’ve had a read. Check out the language of the first paragraph: ‘entails’, ‘authority’, ‘governing’, ‘laws’, ‘bound’, ‘Thai State’. What do you reckon this is all really about: compassion or power?
The letter starts out by saying that WPP monks are expected to obey the Mahatherasamakhom. Let’s inject a little reality here. In my five years as a monk in Thailand, I was never told this. We knew nothing of the Mahatherasamakhom. If WPP wants to make this a rule, good on them, but they are obliged to inform their students before taking ordination.
And again, what rules? How are we to know what they are? Any legitimate organization must make available to its members the laws that it expects them to follow. Just ask any WPP monk what the rules of the Mahatherasamakhom are, and see what he says. I can guarantee you he will know nothing.
Have you read Kafka’s The Trial? It’s worth a look.
The post, somewhat strangely, criticizes Ajahn Brahm for having weak links to the Thai Sangha. This is irrelevant, and incidentally untrue. The statement was later reworded to acknowledge this. Anyone familiar with the WPP scene would know that many of the Western Ajahns almost never visit Thailand, while Ajahn Brahm goes every year, and indeed Ajahn Khampong spent vassa at Bodhinyana just last year. But it does hint as to the concerns of the authors: everything must be the Thai way, and anything else is heretical.
The letter goes on to say:
For most of the Wat Pa Phong theras, the intellectual argument over the validity of bhikkhuni ordination is not the point.
Well, at least we’re agreed there. To decode this, you need to know that ‘intellectual’ is a WPP code word for ‘conceited, attached to self-views, thinks too much’. One would imagine that taking the time to educate and inform oneself might be a good idea before making a major decision, but at WPP they can just breeze right past that bit. Remember that, for all the rhetoric of ‘respect’ and ‘consultation’, WPP passed several rulings against bhikkhuni ordination without consulting Ajahn Brahm or anyone else interested in the issue, and without the slightest knowledge of what is happening in the wider Buddhist sphere.
We are asked in the final paragraph whether this ordination will be seen as a breakthrough for the bhikkhuni order, or whether it will alienate ‘many of those who it was intended to persuade’. The ordination was not done in order to persuade anyone. It was a group of mature, educated, and sincere Sangha performing a normal act of Sanghakamma as laid down in the Vinaya to further the spiritual aspirations of a sincere group of women.
Finally, I would like to once more ask you to consider the question of the WAM, and why the ordination was done beforehand. Let us use a little reason. How does reason work? Well, you take the ‘facts’, that is, information learned from the past, and you put them on the table. You consider those facts, and see what can be inferred from them.
In this case, the facts are that every time the question of bhikkhuni ordination has been formally raised in WPP circles, it has been totally squashed, without any discussion, consultation, or inquiry. Another little fact is that the upcoming discussion of bhikkhunis at the WAM was originally proposed by Ajahn Kevali, whose attitude to bhikkhunis I have already mentioned above. A final fact is that, while this was going on, the English Sangha was imposing the Five Points that deny any possibility of bhikkhuni ordination to the English siladharas.
Try taking these facts and making any kind of reasonable inference from them. We’ve heard of possible ‘honorable’ outcomes from the WAM, but these are sheer imagination. There’s no telling what would have actually happened. Inferring from the facts, the most likely outcome would have been that the WPP hardliners would have come down even more heavily, made their position even stronger, and used whatever means they had in their power to stop the bhikkhuni ordination. They’re upset because they missed their chance.
It’s all about power, my friends, it’s all about power.